In only the second match of the season, Orlando City took one of the longer road trips of their season to face the Colorado Rapids at a mile high — and by high, I mean altitude. The team is still missing some big names, and it looked like the Lions might get a great point on the road, only to have the game, and the points, taken from them in the final moments of the match. What did we learn from the Lions’ 2-1 loss in Denver?
Showing Flexibility Early
With Nani serving the last of his two-match ban, Dom Dwyer’s return unknown with a lower body injury, Ruan getting sick, and Mauricio Pereyra recovering from a slight knock to his quad, it was interesting to see the starting XI. The Lions’ Swiss Army Knife of Kyle Smith and youngster Andres Perea both started. Oscar Pareja also brought the club out in a 3-5-2 formation — something we haven’t seen to date from this chapter of the club. It worked well for the vast majority of the match, forcing the Rapids to try to play behind in the spaces behind the wingbacks as the midfield was locked down.
Almost a Complete Game from the Center Backs
The Colorado Rapids are easily one of league’s most dangerous teams on set pieces, corners, and in the air. Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, and Antonio Carlos did a good job of fighting the Rapids in the air, and not giving them any easy set pieces or headers...well, until the very end of the match. It would have been nice to see Kamal Miller come in for Schlegel, but Orlando had used all three subs right before Rodrigo started to suffer what appeared to be massive cramping in his calves.
The lines looked good, both moving forward and defending. Smith and Joao Moutinho were asked to cover a lot of the pitch last night, and the entire club did a very good job of shifting to cover each other. Tesho Akindele even shifted to help cover defensively, as did Benji Michel. The boys looked well suited for what they were tasked to do this match, considering how new this group is to each other and to this system.
Cardiac Cats Again? Not Quite
Substitutes are key to every match. Super sub Chris Mueller made us all think that he had done it to Colorado once again, only to have the road point taken away in the 90th minute on a set piece. The boys had defended set pieces so well all match but gave up a goal on one in the dying moments of the match.
Where is the Offense?
Michel and Akindele, with brief flashes with the ball, were somewhat invisible offensively. After 45 minutes, all of the Lions’ shots were taken by the five in the midfield. That stat does not change for the next 45 minutes either. In fact, neither Michel nor Akindele are credited with a shot. The only forward to record a shot on goal was Mueller, and that shot he put into the back of the net. It is only the second week of the season, but this area will need to be fixed quickly. The club is showing great ability to create chances, but finishing in the final third is all but missing. This lack of an offensive threat only puts more pressure on the club’s defense. Nani should be back next Saturday, and that will help, but Dwyer’s return is less certain.
Losses like that are tough swallow, but considering that Orlando was a massive underdog heading into this match, I think that result is one to take more positives away from than negatives. Pedro Gallese looked really good between the sticks, the defensive unit looks solid, and the Mendez/Urso pairing looks as though it will become a dominant defensive midfield pairing. So many positives to take away from this, but there is still that one nagging negative.
What did you take away from the match? Let us know in the comments below.